THE ATURE AD EFFICACY OF SAVIG FAITH.

BY REV. CHARLES P. McILVAIE,
John iii. 36.
" He that belevelh on the Son hath everlasting life ; and he that
belieyeth
not the Son, shall not see life, but the vrath of God abideth on him."
one who read the scriptures can fail to notice how much
is there made oi fcdthy as essential to a truly religious
life, and the salvation of the souL The jailor of Philippi
rushes in fear and trembling before his prisoners, Paul and
Silas, and begs to know what he must do to be saved.
Their simple answer is, **Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and thou shalt be saved." A poor blind man pushes his
way through a crowd, and gets to Jesus, begging that his
eyes may be opened. Jesus grants his prayer, opens his
eyes, and then ascribes all to his faith. ^^Thy faith hath
saved thee." Our blessed Lord sends his apostles to
preach the Gospel to every creature, and underwrites their
commission with these emphatic words: "He that believeth
shall be saved ; and he that believeth not shall be damned. "
But for strength of declaration on this head, we need not
look any further than the text: "He that believeth on the
Son hath life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not
see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." Ton see
how directly and essentially everlasting life is here con-
nected with the possession of faith in Christ. He that
232 SERMO XI.
has a true faith in Christ, is now in possession of life
eternal. He who has it not, is now abiding under the
wrath of God.
ow, we should not think much of the reflecting dis-
position of that man, who, accustomed to the usual
thoughts on the subject of saving fiiith, had never been
struck with something pparently so peculiar, so unlike
what we are accustomed to in all other interests of man,
in this absolute dependence of everlasting life and death
singly on the possession of faith in Christ, as to have felt
there was a difficulty which he would much desire to have
removed. I suppose there is a large number of minds,
among the respectful hearers of the gospel, who are con-
scious, all the time, of a want of satisfaction on that
subject; and another class, among serious and earnest
Christians, to whom, while it may present no difficulty, it
is a subject about which they feel that they have little to
say, except that it is the plan of Him who is infinitely
wise and merciful, thus to make believing in Jesus the
turning point of life or death to the sinner's soul.
We desire to show that there is much more to be said
than that; that faith is not so peculiar in its connection
with salvation, nor so unlike its position in all other con-
cerns of man, as is much imagined; that the exceedingly
prominent and essential position assigned to faith, in the
economy of our salvation, and in all the Christian life, in-
stead of having no parallel in other interests of man, is in
precise conformity with what we are familiar with in all
other human interests; so that, from all our connections
with nature and Providence, from all our worldly concerns
and relations, we should have had reason to anticipate
THE ATUEB AD EPHCACT OF SAVIG FAITH. 233
that the place and function of faith; in all our spiritual
interests, would be just what the scriptures represent it.
But I must first correct a prevalent, but veiy errone-
ous idea, of the nature of ^Ae/atVA required in the Gospel.
It is a common supposition, arising out of the great
things attributed to faith in the scriptures, such as the
believer's union to Christ, his justification in the right-
eousness of Christ, his victory over the world, &c., that
it is some principle of the regenerate heart, so peculiar,
80 entirely above nature, and so exclusively pertaining to
the Gospel, that there is nothing elsewhere corresponding
to, or partaking of, its character. That there is such
a thing as faith between man and man, in the ordinary
concerns of human life, is of course understood; J3ut the
idea is, that between such natural &ith, and that of the
Christian believer, successfully prosecuting the work of
his salvation, there is nothing in common. Faith that
saves the soul, through Christ, we know is asserted in the
scriptures to be 'Hhe gift of God.^^* It is therefore sup-
posed that it must be unlike, in all things, that faith
which is only the gift of nature.
We shall take good heed, that in correcting this idea,
we do not, in the slightest degree, reduce your conception
o^Baving faith, as being never a natural endowment of the
human heart, and never attainable by man without the
converting grace of God; never attained but by the di-
rect act of the Holy Spirit upon man's mind and heart,
convincing him of his ruined state as a sinner, condemned
under the law of God; revealing to him the preciousness
of Christ, as his only and perfect refuge, and enabling
•Eph. ii. 8.
234 SERMO XI.
him to embrace and rest thereon with a joyful hope of
salvation. Faith is thus most truly and exclusively "ifta
gift of Gody But must we not say the same of love to
God? Is not the love in which all the law is fulfilled^
and which, in its various degrees of peifectness, is the
sum and substance of all piety, as much the gift of God
as saving faith? And yet, do any suppose that it is a
grace so peculiar to vital religion, so entirely supernatural,
that in the natural man there is no corresponding affec-
tion? Is not the love of a dutiful son to an affectionate
father an emotion very nearly corresponding to that of a
child of God towards his Father in heaven ? Must we
have an entirely new affection created within us, before
we can love God ; or only an old natural affection made
new by having a new heart given to it; made new by be-
ing transferred from the creature to the Creator, and set
upon our Father in heaven? And when, according to the
scriptures, we hold, that the love of God in our hearts
Cometh only by the gift of his Spirit working in us, what
is meant, but that the affection of love, implanted in us by
nature, and kept, by the bondage of our fallen nature,
grovelling amidst earthly things, and incapable of ascend-
ing to God, has been, by the power of his Spirit, regen-
erated, purified, and exalted, so that what was before
only the supreme love of the world, and the things there-
in, is now the supreme love of God and his will. In a few
words, to love is the gift of nature. To love God is the
gift of grace.
ow, precisely what we have said of the nature and
peculiarity of the love of God in the heart, is equally
true of a saving faith in Christ. In our unregenerate
THE ATUBB AD EFnCACY OP SAVIG FAITH. 235
state^ £tith is as universal as love: The child trusts in
his m ther as naturally as he loves her. Mutual reliance
13 as natural between man and man as mutual love.
This reliance is nothing but/aiVA, in its entire definition.
And the difference between such natural faith and reli*
gious, saving faith, is not that they are two entirely
separate things, but that the one is regenerated into the
other ; a new heart is given it, so that now, instead of
satisfying itself with earthly things to trust in, it embra-
ces the heavenly ; instead of contenting itself with hew-
ing out to itself cisterns that can hold no water, it rests
for happiness upon the fullness of God ; instead of seek-
ing salvation in our own righteousness^ it embraces
promises of God in Christ, and in doing so embraces the
Christ in all the offices and relations which he sustains
to us; his will as well as his grace; the precept of his
present service as well as the hope of his everlasting
blessedness. And because this great change can no more
take place in the natural faith of the heart than the cor-
responding change in the heart's natural love, without the
direct gift of God's Holy Spirit, therefore, most justly is
it said of saving faith, that it is "wo^ ofyoursdves^ hut the gift
of God.^^ So that just as we said of love, we now say of
this. Faith is the gift of nature. But saving faith in
Christ is exclusively the gift of grace. To believe and
to live by fiiith, is born with us. To believe with the
heart in Christ, and live thereby unto God, is not ours till
we are born again.
But we advance a further step. ot only do we find
in the natural faith of men that which is so akin to the
saving faith of the Gospel; but the exceeding prominence
236 SEBMO XI.
assigned to the latter in thewhole plan of salvation, in
all our spiritual interests and duties, is precisely corres-
pondent to the position held by the natural faith of man,
in all his temporal concerns ; in all that constitutes the
welfare of human society ; so that it would be a departure
from all that we are accustomed to in the divine arrange-
ments for our secular interests and duties, did we find in
the provisions of the Gospel for our spiritual and eternal
welfare, any less essential and prominent position assigned
to faith than that in which the scriptures have placed it
But you tell me that such is the exceeding prominence
of faith in the religion of Christ, that every thing in the
saving of the soul is made to hinge on that one gift; that
without it there can be no true piety, no interest in
Christ, no salvation ; and with it, we are " in Christ," and
have eternal life; that it is the tree to which all the other
manifestations of personal religion belong as its fruit, and
without which they can no more be produced than grapes
can grow without the stock and root of the vine. True !
But what less can you say of natural faith in all that per-
tains to the personal, domestic and social relations of man
in the present life ? Does not the whole movement of
this world, as a world of mind and heart and mutual inter-
ests and innumerable connections, between man and man,
turn upon the single pivot oi faith ?
Take man at his birth. What is the whole existence
of the feeble, helpless infant, but a life of the most
simple, implicit faith. He literally lives ly fcdth. Take
away his unquestioning faith in his mother's love and care,
and what will become of his life? And when the time
arrives for his education, how can he receive the first
THE ATUBE AD EFHCACY OP SAVIG FAITH. 237
communications of knowledge but by an elementary and
implicit faith? Must he discuss the necessity or the pro-
priety of the alphabet before he will receive it? And to
the end of life^ how large a part of all he will ever know
as matter of fact, must be known by faith only; by reli-
ance on the testimony of men ! How can he know of
distant lands which he never sees, but by such faith alone ?
Suppose a man to have no faith in his fellow-man, and
what can you imagine more helpless or more wretched!
Suppose a family, the members of which are without faith
in one another, and how is it possible there can be any
family life ? And thus advancing to the social relations
of a whole nation, how immediately would you dissolve
the bonds of civilized communities, and annihilate all the
combinations and reciprocal dependencies which make the
basis of society, and how would you substitute a condition
worse than even of the lowest barbarism you ever heard
of, were you to take away from a people merely their
faith in one another. othing more distinguishes a civil-
ized from a savage state, than the extension of the exer-
cise of faith. By the growth of faith in one another,
combinations for mutual benefit become more easy and
more numerous and more efficient. Thus arise power
and accumulation of the means of further improvement.
Knowledge grows with this union of minds. Laws extend
their protection, because men rely on one another for their
observance and support. Conmierce spreads its wings,
and arts and all the blessings of cultivated life attain do-
minion on the strength of the confidence of man in man.
How lives the vast system of pecuniary exchange that
binds the whole business world together, embracing in its
238 SEBMO XI.
connections, all countries, all classes, all interests, so that
were it stopped, there must take place a dissolution in
the secular interests of men like that in our bodies, when
the circulation of the blood has ceased; how lives that
whole system but by faith? And in the world of letters,
what if the fiiith that now receives and acts confidently
on reports of distant lands, or of important phenomena in
nature, or of valuable experiments in science, were extinct,
so that instead of being ever willing to rely on human
testimony, we must verify everything by our own obser
vation or experiment — how then could knowledge increase
or science advance; what could we ever know beyond
the narrow horizon of our own personal inspection ? How
know we even to prepare for the morrow, but by our faith that
the laws which regulate the present, will alike extend into
the future ? Certainly it needs no more words to show
how innumerable are the ramifications of faith in our
most ordinary concerns; how they run in all directions,
extend to^all particulars, and embrace the utmost extremi-
ties of the social system, so as not only to bind together
its several members in one harmonious movement, but
like the arteries in our bodies, to supply the very life by
which it exists.
But is there any thing beyond this in the importance
attached to faith in the Gospel ? Is that faith in our
Lord Jesus Christ, which is "the gift of God," of any
more necessity to the present life of piety within us or to
the future salvation of our souls, according to the revela-
tion of God in the scriptures, thin is that faith which is
the gift of nature to the dearest earthly interests of every
individual, family and nation?
THE ATURE AD EFFICACY OF SAYIQ FAITH. 239
But let US come to some of the special powers and effects
of fdith, as ascribed to it in the scriptures.
We read, for example, in an epistle of St John, that
"whatsoever is born of God, overcometh the world; and
this is the victory thai overcometh the worlds even your
^aitV^* It is a property, then, of allying and saving
faith, that it overcome;^ the world. Faith in the individual
Christian, will give him, through the power of God, such a
victory over the world, that he will successfully resist all
the influences with which it opposes his going out of it,
and living unto God, and journeying toward the heavenly
land. It will make him victorious in his daily conflicts
with its temptations, and will carry him triumphantly to
the end of his pilgrimage, where the battle will cease and
the crown of life be gained. The same faith will make
the whole Church of Christ, by the power of its Divine
Head, ultimately victorious over the whole world. By faith,
it will "subdue kingdoms;" it will remove mountains of
obstacle now presented by idolatry, and superstition, and
worldliness, and all sinfulness; it will "quench the violence
of fire," which the combined powers of infidelity, and
popery, and anarchy will kindle around it ; a Red sea of
dangers will divide before it ; the walls of the mystic
Babylon, like those of Jericho of old, will fall before it; it
will stop the mouths of lions, gnashing their teeth against
it ; it will "have trial" hereafter, as in past ages, "of cruel
mockings and scourgings — ^yea, moreover, of bonds and
imprisonment ;" and many of the children and soldiers of
Ciith may be slain; but it is written in the "sure word of
prophecy," that " the kingdom, and dominion, and the
« 1 John, ?. 4.
240 SERMO XI.
greatness of the kingdom, under the whole heaven, shall
be given to the people of the saints of the Most High,
whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all nations
shall serve and obey Him."* And this is the victory that
by the power of God, will thus overcome the world, even
the combined faith of the people of God. And what is
all this but just, in greater extension, what faith has been
achieving from the beginning ? Did not Moses overcome
the world by a wonderful victory, when he refused the
honor, and power, and wealth connected with being " called
the son of Pharaoh's daughter;" and "esteemed the re-
proach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of
Egypt ?" And was it not his faith, " enduring as seeing
Him that is invisible," and "having respect unto the
recompense of the reward " at God's right hand, that
gained that victory ?t And did not faith overcome the
world in each soldier of that noble army of martyrs, who,
amidst the persecutions of all ages, enlisted under Christ,
and fought a good fight, and finished their course, and enter-
ed into the glory of God, " more than conquerors?" The
world slew them ; but in consenting to be slain, rather than
obey the world to the dishonoring of Christ, they over-
came the world. The same was the victory of that " glori-
ous company of the Apostles," who by faith in the words
of their Lord, "J aw with you always^ even to the end of the
world,^^ issued forth from Jerusalem, to assault, single
handed, the empire of darkness, over the whole earth,
and ceased not their work till a great multitude in every
land had renounced the world and become obedient unto
God.
But is there any thing singular or strange in this con-
• Dan. Tii. 27. fHeb. xi. 24-27.
THE ATURE AD EFnCAOY OF SAVIG FAITH. 241
nection of faith ? Is there nothing analogous thereto in
what the natural faith of man accomplishes away from the
duties of the service of God ? I would not for a moment
keep out of view the infinite superiority of a gospel faith
over every other form and operation of faith, in its pro-
perty so to enable the Christian to overcome the world,
that in his heart, and spirit, and life, he is no more of it;
but one of "a peculiar people," who declare, in all their
affections and life, that they " have here no continuing city
or abiding place, but are seeking one to come." ^^o man
can do such miracles except God be with him." But there
is a faith which, in an unspeakably lower field, and for in-
finitely less precious ends, and against far less opposition,
overcomes the world. The man who sets his heart, not
indeed on treasure in heaven, but upon the treasures of
golden mines in a far distant land, and puts such faith in
the promises of wealth to him who will go there and search
the sands, and the rocks, and encounter all the perils and
endure all the hardships inseparable firom the effort, that
notwithstanding all the resistance of all that he loves, and
all that he has in this world, he makes the needed sacrifice
of every personal comfort, and domestic attachment, and
worldly connection ; and, with a brave will, battles all the
dangers and difficulties of the long, disheartening journey
by the way of the wilderness and the savage, fearing
neither hunger, nor cold, nor nakedness, and reaches at
last the scene of his anticipated labors — ^is there no vic-
tory that overcometh the world in him? True, it is the
power of a worldly dominion in his heart overcoming the
obstacles of the world without j it is a victory that uses
the attractions of one promise of the world against those
16
242 SEBMO XI.
of all the world besides ; it only makes the conqueror,
more than ever, the slave of the world ; but it is a great
victory to be gained over such obstacles and at such cost ;
and that which obtains it is faith. othing but strong
&ith in the promises that came from that distant land,
of golden gains; faith investing those things unseen and
distant with the influence of things present and seen, could
take such possession of the mind, and nerve it for such
labors and sacrifices.
But let us take another example. A great Captain
overcame with his armies many nations — a large part of
the earth. But how ? ot by superiority of numbers,
for the vanquished nations far exceeded his array. ot
by superior personal courage, for armies are geneially
much alike in that respect Superiority of discipline is
said to have decided the contest. But what is the soul,
and bond, and strength of military discipline, but faith ?
That which binds the regiment into one compact and
steady array, and enables it to move as one man, obeying
without confusion, and without fear, the orders of the
head, unbroken by assault, unaffected by dangers, is not
the mere practice of evolution, but it is something withoat
which all such practice would come to nought in the hour
of conflict- — confidence^ reUance — not the reliance of each
man upon himself, but of each in ail the rest; and, espe-
cially, the confidence of all in the leading head. The
weak are made strong by such faith. The fearful are
made bold by such &ith. The hundreds have overcome
the thousands by such faith. Without it, the strong be-
come weak, the bold become fearful ; and the greater the
number, the worse the defeat and the dismay.
THE ATUBE AD EFFICACT OF SAVIG FAITH. 248
I am well aware that whatever examples I may produce
of the operation of the natural &ith of man surmounting
great difficulties, and accomplishing great victories, in
pursuit of some engrossing end, must come immeasurably
short of a just resemblance, in many respects, of that
elevated faith which is " mighty, through God,'* to over-
come the world. But we are looking for analogies, not
equals; for faith in the world, occupying a position towards
the world, similar, in its low and contracted sphere, to that
of faith in the hearts of those who are "not of the world"
in its high endeavors to attain the kingdom of God.
There is certainly a boundless difference in character
and spirit between the faith that overcomes the world out
of the love of it, and that it may have the more of it —
and that which overcomes the world because it has re-
nounced it, and is endeavoring to get as much delivered
as possible from its entanglements and attractions. You
describe a vast gulf between the two, when you say of the
Mth which God gives by his grace, that it " worketh by
love," the love of God, the love of holiness, the love of
unseen and eternal blessedness with Christ ; and can say
nothing better of the faith that is naturally in us, than
that, if it ever work by love, it is only by the love of
things on the earth, as empty and fleeting as the shadow.
And in point of operation, what comparison is there between
the faith which, in accomplishing its ends, has no power to
rest on but man's, and that which, because it is engaged
in the work of God, in obedience to his word, and in the
assurance of his promises, has the power of his omnipo-
tent arm to nerve it and make it victorious? The former
can never rise above the arm of flesh it leans to. All it
244 SERMO XI.
gains is of its own level. The latter must rise to the arm
above, which it holds to. Its conquests must be as high
as heaven, and as eternal as God.
But vast as is the difference in point of character and
operation, there is a strict analogy between the position of
our natural faith as connected with every worldly enter-
prise, and that of a saving faith as connected with the
great enterprise of every Christian believer, to overcome
and live above the world.
But let us take another instance of the great promi-
nence assigned to feith in the scriptures. We read the
words of our Lord Jesus, where he says: ^' I am the
bread of life ;" in which single expression he embraces all
our salvation as being found in him. Then he says : ^'He
that conieth to me shall never hunger^ and h^ that heUeveth an
me shall never thirst ;^^* thus making faith not only the
way, but the certain way, by which we are to partake of
him and live forever. St. Paul, in enforcing this doc-
trine, said: "JF« are made partakers of Christ, if we hold
the beginning of our confidence (faith) steadfast unto the
end; " f thus teaching that not only is it faith that ob-
tains Christ and makes him ours, but that it is the stead-
fast continuance of faith alone that retains him as ours,
and will iSnally insure to the soul the everlasting posses-
sion of that living bread. And in the same connection
are the words of the text : " He that helicveth on the Son,
hath everlasting life^ The act of faith is here immedi-
ately connected with our being partakers of Christ, with
our coming into saving union with him, and being justi-
fied in his righteousness; and thus it is connected with the
• John vi. 35. f Heb. iii, 14.
THE ATURE AD EFFICACY OF SAVIQ FAITH. 24l>
present possession of life with God, and life everlasting.
But this wonderful blessing, consequent upon the simple
act of believing with the heart in Christ, is it illustrated
by any analogy to be found in the efficacy of that faith
which resides naturally in man, and operates in his daily
interests ?
What is it that goes on continually between the physi-
cian and the sick? A man is dying with a malady,
against which all his own efforts, and the skill of those
about him, have proved ineffectual. He is told of a phy-
sician at a distance, of whose power over disease he
receives such evidence and assurance, that Jhe is per-
suaded that if he can only get to him he can be saved.
At much expense and much effort, in his weakness, he
goes to that physician, places himself in his hands, sur-
renders himself implicitly to his direction, to be conformed
in all things to his requirements. Thus he comes into
union with that physician. There is a vital connection
formed between the malady of the one and the power of
the other. The sick man is thus a partaker of the phy-
sician, in all his skill and power to heal. But what has
made him thus a partaker? what has formed this union,
whereby he escapes from death? Is it not his faith?
It was simply because he so fully believed in the physi*
cian, that he came to him; that he placed himself in his
hands; that he obeyed all his most painful requirements.
Without faith he would not have done so. By faith was
the union formed between himself, as dying, and the skill
of that physician, as mighty to save him.
ow, you well know that the salvation which is offered
to us in Christ, is presented to us in the light of a gra-
246 SERMO XI. ^
cious and all-sufficient remedy for our dying condition
under the internal dominion of sin, and the condemnation
of God's violated law. Jesus comes to us as the phyfii-
cian, mighty to save to the uttermost all who believe in
his name. He '^healed all that came unto him/' in the
days of his ministry on earth, of all their ^^ divers di^ases
and torments" of body, in order to show how ready and
able he is to comfort and deliver all that ever thereafter
should mourn the power of sin, and the burden of its
condemnation on the soul.
Let us then suppose the case of a sinner thus feeling
his spiritual necessities. He has tried all .the expedients
which self-reliance and human aid could suggest, and now
feels that he is as helpless as he is sinful and needy.
The gracious call of Christ is heard, saying, "Come unto
me, and I will give you rest." It comes to him with convin-
cing evidence that to Christ he cannot apply in vain. He
comes to the Saviour, embraces his promises, surrenders
himself to his grace, submits himself to his will. Thus
are all his necessities brought into union with all the
saving grace that is in Christ Jesus. Thus does he be-
come a "/?ar^a*er" in all which that gracious physician
has invited him to seek in him. He now hath life in
Christ. And what has brought him to that possession ?
What has set him down at the feet of Jesus, to do just
what he directs, but faith ? It was because he did not
believe in any other refuge, that he renounced aU others.
It was because he did believe in this one refuge, that he
fled to it, and was made partaker in its salvation; and
now he will be Jthe final partaker of Christ unto life eter-
THE ATUBE AD EFFICACT OF SAVIG FAFTH. 247
nal) if he shall only ^^hold the heginmng of Mb confidence
steadfast unto the end^
Thus, we are prepared for the strong declaration- of the
text: ^^He that believeth on the Son bath everlasting
life ; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life,
but the wrath of God abideth on him."
We do not see but that, as regards the points now in
view, that text, in its first declaration, has its entire
parallel and illustration in the case of every sick man,
who, in reliance upon a physician's skill, applies to him,
adopts his prescriptions, and is delivered firom death by
his care; and in its second declaration, has its entire par-
allel in the case of every sick man who might equally be
healed, but, because he chooses some other help, and will
not entrust his case to him who is able to heal, must die.
He that believed in the physician, has life. He that be-
lieveth not, shall not have life, but the power of death
abideth on him.
If God, in his wise providence, has thus suspended the
cure of the body upon the exercise of faith, is it a matter
of wonder that in the appointments of his grace, he should
make the salvation of our souls as much dependent on
the exercise of a true &ith in the exclusive sufficiency of
our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we not see that the position
of &ith in the Gospel, as essential to our being partakers
of Christ, so far from being such a peculiarity of the Gos-
pel, that it has no parallel any where else, and has no
explanation but that so hath God ordained, is no more
than the carrying out, in our highest concerns, of the
ways of God, as they are ordered in all the temporal inter-
ests of man, so that if it were possible that we should be
248 SERMO XI.
saved through Christ, in any other way than by believing
upon him^ it would be a departure, not only from the re-
peated dec'arations of God^s word, but also from all the
ways of his providence.
In truth, the position of faith in the heart of the Chris-
tian as regards the life of his piety, and the strength of all
its operations towards God, is just the restoration of what
dates its origin as far back as the creation. Faith in God
was as much the feature of man before he fell under the
power of sin, as love to God. His whole perfect walk was
of the simplest, most implicit and affectionate trust. The
divine word on which his &ith rested, was written in his
own enlightened conscience and faithful heart ; was writ-
ten in every illuminated page of the great volume of
nature ; was heard in his direct and daily communion with
his Maker. one, ever since, have walked as perfectly
by faith, as did Adam, before he fell; as none have ever
walked as perfectly in love. " Faith that worketh by
love," was more mature in Paradise than it has ever been
out of it.
But the fall of man dislocated both his love and faith.
It destroyed neither; but it separated both from God.
Love remained ; but not love to God. Faith remained;
but not a living faith in God. And now the prominence
of our natural faith in all the concerns of this life; its con-
tinual and essential operation, from the most simple trusting
of childhood, through all the complex reliances of our man-
hood; and then down again to the simplic'ty of a second
childhood, so that it is as true in secular life as in spiritual,
that we live by faith — what is all this but the remnant,
the detached fragment, of that implicit, and all compre-
THE ATUBE AD EFFICACY OF SAYIG FAITH. 249
hensive, faith in God which once reigned supreme in the
heart of man; and which, because it embraced the whole
will of God, connected itself with and sanctified the
whole world that God created ? Faith then, was all reli-
gious faith, whatever its secular connections; because
then the most ordinary and secular act and interest was
directly associated with and part of the service and wor-
ship of God. All life was rehgion, as all religion was
life.
ow, it is the office of the grace of God, dispensed
through Christ our Mediator, to restore religious faith to
its original supremacy in the heart and life of man; to
regenerate the present natural faith in the creature, so
that it shall be a living, saving faith in the Creator ; to
take up that fallen fragment as it lies broken away from
God, like a chain that has lost its upward fastening, and
now is dragging along in the dust ; to lift it up again to
God ; link it again to his throne ; then carry it from man
to man, till every heart has moored itself thereto ; and so
to unite all mankind in one happy reliance on the prom-
ises, in one happy obedience to the will, in one happy par-
ticipation in the blessing and salvation, of God.
• But in saying that the faith required of the Christian
for salvation, is just the restoration of a faith which is as
old as the creation of man, I must be understood as speak-
ing ordy of its easmtial nature and its prominent position in
religion. In the exercise of faith, there is something pecu-
liar to the Gospel, and which, before sin came into the
world, and the promise of a Saviour was made, could not
exist. Religion and salvation are now so inseparably asso-
ciated in our thoughts, that we can scarcely imagine them
250 SERMO XI.
divided. But before the coming in of sin, man's religion,
which was then in its perfectness, had no reference to sal-
vation. There was no salvation to be attained, because
there was nothing lost. Man was safe, as long as he con-
tinued what he was. But he sinned, and thus was lost
A salvation and a Saviour were now required. Hence-
forth religion was all about salvation; and the Saviour,
then promised, and now sent of God to seek and to save
that which is lost, became, as he ever must be, the great
and precious object and refuge in the sight of sinners.
To get to Christ; to be partakers of him, in all his offices,
as the one Mediator between God and man, became at
once Hie great matter. Thus it is that faith in the Lord
Jesus Christy faith as the approach of the soul to him who
is the sinner's way to God and God's way to sinners, be-
came so leading a feature in true religion; not faith in any
new prominence, but in an entirely new direction; not fidth
rendered any more essential to religion than it was before,
but performing its essential office by seeking deliverance
from a misery which man had not before, and embracing
a remedy which man needed not before ; faith seeking
God, by first resting in a Mediator, and looking unto Jesus
as the Author and the Finisher of all its hope.
But we must not omit to speak of a peculiarity in the
saving faith whereby we become partakers of the right-
eousness of Christ, which eminently distinguishes it from
that natural faith of the human heart with which we have
compared it It is described as ^' faith that worJceth by
/(W^."* That is, not only is it working, operative, influ-
ential, as all &ith, whether of the natural or regenerate
heart, whether occupied with secular or eternal tilings,
• Gal. T.6.
THE ATUBE AD EFFIOAOT 09 SAYIKG FAITH, 251
must be, unless it be only nominal ; but the operative
character of saving, gospel &ithy is distinguished by this
notable peculiarity, that "it worketh bi/ love^^^ by the love
of him on whom its trust is placed, Jesus Christ ; by the
love of God, unto whom it comes through Christ ; by the
love of his will and service, and by the love of all his
people for his sake. Hence the true believer is drawn by
the affections of his heart to desire, and to walk in, the
path of holiness; not merely because, without holiness, he
knows he cannot be saved, but because he loves holiness
as the very image and likeness of God. Take away that
operative love, thus drawing him to delight in the will of
him on whose promises his faith is placed, and that faith
t> dead. It is but the lifeless form of faith, about as much
like the saving faith of the gospel, as a corpse is like the
living man. It may join him to the visible Church, but it
cannot unite him to Christ; it may make him a partaker
of the visible fellowship of true believers, but it cannot
introduce him to that invisible communion wherein true
believers are partakers of Christ, in the imputation of his
righteousness to justify them, and the communication of
his Spirit to sanctify them.
But it is needless to show that the natural faith of the
human heart, which, as we have seen, in point of prom-
inence and importance in secular affairs, is so analogous to
that of the Gospel, has no such attribute. It is a working
faith, however. It is not dead in regard to its appropriate
office. It strongly embraces all the promises it has to
rest upon. But it does not necessarily work by love.
For example, is it the faith of the sick man seeking the
physician's aid, trusting in his skill, conforming to his
252 SERMO XI.
directions ? It is operative, it is obedient, and it may be
successful, though, in place of having any love for the phy-
sician, or for the obedience of his will, by which to work,
there may be the strongest aversion to both, an aversion
overcome only by the stronger love of life.
And now let me return once more, in conclusion, to
the particular words of the text :
"He that believe th on the Son, hath everlasting lifey
He " hath the Sorty^ because his faith has applied to the
Son. He hath life, because in the Son is " the life of
men." He halh " everlasting life ; " as he that hath the
inexhaustible fountain, hath the endless stream. Is Christ
our righteousness^ yiherein we are justified before God?
Faith brings us to, and makes us partakers in, that right-
eousness. Is Christ our sandificationy whereby we are made
meet for the presence of God ? Faith brings us to, and
makes us partakers in, that sanctification. And the union
of those two is life, with God, and unto God — "life ever-
lasting ;^^ the same life precisely as that which saints made
perfect enjoy in the immediate vision of God, and in the
boundless bliss of his kingdom ; except that here, it is the
stream^ begun and flowing on, impeded and obscured by
the nature it flows in; but growing wider, and deeper, as it
proceeds; while there, it is the ocean, without measure, and
without impurity — the united life of all the saints of God,
in their utmost perfectness of communion with his infinite
fullness.
But we must mark more particularly, that the words of
the text are in present time. They declare, that "he that
believeth on the Son, hath everlasting life." The posses-
sion of life, in other words, is immediate on the possession
THE ATUKB AD BamCACY OF SAVIG FAITH. 253
of faith. When the sinner believes with his heart, as
soon as he so believes, he hath that life, that peace with
God, that justification, that sanctification; yea, justifica-
tion complete, be<5ause in that there can be no degrees or
progression ; but sanctification begun, as the morning light,
and going on to the perfect day of holiness in heaven.
But the text contains as positive a declaration of the
present possession of the wrath of God by him who believ-
eth not " He that believeth not the Son, shall not see
life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him." ." The wrath
of God abideth " now, on every one that hath not faith
in Christ. He waits not for the day of judgment. He
"is condemned already."* Does this seem a hard saying?
But is it not the necessary result of these two facts,
namely : that you have sinned against God, and that
you have not embraced the only terms of his forgiveness?
If I find a man under the power of a deadly disease, and tell
him of one that can and will heal him, if he will only trust
himself to his care; and then, when he will not do so, but
prefers to trust the power of his own nature to overcome the
malady, and so goes on to die, would it be strange, if I
should say, because he will not put his trust in that physi-
cian, he cannot have life ; but the power of death abideth
on him?
A raging flood, we will suppose, has overflowed the land ;
a family, surrounded by the waters, has gathered to the
last foothold; the tide is rapidly rising; soon they must
be swept away. But see ! a boat hastens to their relief-
A rope is thrown, and a voice cries to them, " come away ;
seize the rope ; trust its strength and we will save you."
One grasps it eagerly, and is drawn aboard and rescued.
*John iii. 18.
254 8EBM0 XI.
The others hesitate, and linger, and look around for some-
thing else. They hope the waters will not rise any more.
They will hope to be saved where they are. But now the
moment of rescue is over — ^the boat can stay no longer.
The flood increases, and takes them all away. And what
is the most appropriate language concerning them ? one
better than that of the text : He that believeth is saved;
hut they that beUeved not, cannot live, hut the wraih of the
flood abideih on them. And what is this but, under an-
other form, the precise case of those who believe not on
the Lord Jesus Christ? They are sinners. They have
therefore incurred the condemnation of God. They have
come under his wrath. Have they ever obtained the
removal of that wrath ? The only Saviour has come to
save them; has come near to them; has stretched out
his hands unto them; has entreated them to embrace his
salvation; but they have turned away from him; they
will not rest their hearts upon his grace. What follows ?
Why, they remain, of course, just as they were ; their
sins unpardoned; their soul» without peace. Let that
unbelief^ that neglect of Christ, go on to death, and they
can never see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on them
forever and ever. Surely it is not wonderful, that, reject-
ing the ark you must abide the flood; that, neglecting to
avail yourselves of the only salvation, you should remain
the lost to all eternity.
But there is one thing to be noted here of great seri-
ousness. The drowning man does not make the depth in
which he sinks, any the deeper or more terrible, because
he will not seize the hand extended to rescue him. But
not so with the sinner, abiding and sinking under the con-
THE ATUBE AD EFFICACT OF SAYIQ FAITH. 255
demnation of sin, and who yet neglects the great salva-
tion which the wonderful love and grace of God have pro-
vided for him at so much cost, and pressed upon his
acceptance with so much compassion. That neglect,
though it be merely neglect, and rise not to a more posi-
tive rejection of Christ, is itself awful sin, covering the
soul with guilt; enough of itself to ruin you forever; and
consequently, to a dreadful extent, increasing the weight of
the condemnation abiding already. This is not often con-
sidered by sinners in this unhappy state. What they for-
feit by not taking refuge in Christ, they may sometimes
think of. But what they get by that course, they do not
consider. ot to accept Christ I What is it but to re-
ject him ? Take care, my hearers, that you understand
this. o matter how confidently you may expect, some-
time hereafter, to embrace Christ ; the denial of your pres-
ent love, and trust, and obedience, and devotedness to
him, is nothing less than the present denial of Christ, in
every practical sense; it is the practical denial, in your
hearts, that you have any need of his grace; it is the
turning away of your whole being from the tender com-
passion of him who "spared not his own Son, but deliver-
ed him up for us aU;" it is the deliberate taking away
from Christ that heart, that life, which he hath purchased
unto himself with his own blood, and saying you will not
have him to reign over you. And can it be that the sin-
ner does not come under a far heavier wrath of God for
this ; that if death had no sting but that one sin, it would not
be enough to fill us with " the terrors of the Lord." Oh !
what can He, who is to judge the quick and the dead, in
the day when " he will bring every work into judgment,
256 SERMO XI.
with every secret thing," what can he then say to you so
terrible, as that he, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
did come to seek and save your soul, by the sacrifice of
himself, and you neglected so great salvation? Ah ! that
denial of Christ', what a denial /row Christ must it meet,
in "the day of the revelation of the righteous judg-
ment of God !" Escape ye, escape ye, while yet it is the
day of salvation ! Tarry not ; the door of the ark is yet
wide open, and the voice still speaks : " Him that cometh
unto me I will in no wise cast out" Oh ! blessed Spirit
of Grace, help us to persuade them to enter while yet it is
a day of grace and not of judgment — while it is the blood
of the Lamb to take away sin that is proclaimed, and not
as it soon will be " the wrath of the Lamb," to banish all
hope forever! Look at the fullness, the freeness, the pre-
ciousness of the salvation in Christ to which ye are so
earnestly called; and say, sinners, say, why will ye die ?
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